The 7th day Pizza & wine in your PJ’s

Maloof Wines. Where ya Pj's at, with Blaze Pizza

On the 7th day…well we rested! Eating Pizza and Sucking Glass with Maloof Wines.

Eat pizza, suck glass.

The Mantra from RossandBee at Maloof Wines

 We have been cooking a lot lately, and these 12 Days of Wine are keeping us busy.  Today on the 7th day of Wine, we rest. We pick up a white pizza, make a bowl of popcorn and watch a movie, thanks to the recommendation of Ross & Bee of Maloof Wines.

We met them this summer and tasted their wines while in the Willamette Valley.  You can read the piece we wrote on them here https://www.crushedgrapechronicles.com/ross-bee-maloof-wines/

2017 Where Ya PJ’s at?

This wine is a blend of Pinot Gris and Riesling, they consider it their version of a rosé.

Maloof Wines. Where ya Pj's at
Maloof Wines. Where ya Pj’s at

“Ross: (This) wine is our fun little spring blend, this is what we think of as our answer to a rosé.  This is a blend, it’s 55% Pinot Gris and the Pinot Gris was fermented on the skins, kind of as you would traditionally ferment a red wine.  So we ferment that, on the skins in two different fashions; we do half of it with full skin contact and daily punch downs and then the other half we actually do carbonic masceration.  Then that’s pressed off and blended with Riesling. So it’s like 55% skin contact Pinot Gris and 45% Riesling.  And this wine is called “Where Ya PJs at?”

Ross Maloof at the 2018 Uncommon Wine Festival

Pairing Suggestion

So what to pair?  On the Maloof site they suggest”

Serve chilled or at cellar temp with white za pies or with a bowl of popcorn over your favorite John Cusak movie.  Ours is Grosse Point Blank.

From the Maloof website http://rossandbee.com/wines/

We pulled out the “Where Ya PJ’s at” and donned our PJ’s for pizza popcorn and wine (no lounging in your underwear here).  We could enjoy the tree, the lights, a movie and rest a bit.

Maloof Wines. Where ya Pj's at, with Blaze Pizza
Maloof Wines. Where ya Pj’s at, with Blaze Pizza

The pizza I will give a shout out to Blaze Pizza

Maloof Wines. Where ya Pj's at, with Blaze Pizza
Maloof Wines. Where ya Pj’s at, with Blaze Pizza

This was quick, easy, and just the right size to pair with our bowl of popcorn.  We ordered the “White Top” signature pizza, which is white cream sauce with mozzarella, applewood bacon, chopped garlic, oregano and fresh arugula, which they add at the end after it has baked for all of 3 minutes in the high heat pizza oven, while I watch.

Trust me there was plenty of garlic! (they people making the pizza are generous with toppings and always check to be sure if they’ve added enough or if you want more!) 

We popped up some buttered popcorn to go with the ‘za, popped the bottle of “Where Ya PJ’s At?” and curled up on the couch with a movie.

The wine

The Where Ya PJ’s At? is coppery in the glass from that pinot gris with skin contact. The pinot gris gives it a rich nose also. There is a bit of sediment in the bottom of the bottle (which I kinda like).  The flavors are rich and the bit of effervescence tickles your tongue and your taste buds. 

Maloof Wines. Where ya Pj's at
Maloof Wines. Where ya Pj’s at

The pairing

We actually watched Sofia Coppolas “Marie Antoinette”and the wine channeled that everyday luxury kind of feel for me. It was a day of lounging about, enjoying tasty bits and wine, like lounging at court. Overall the food and wine pairing was perfect. The movie…hmmm. (maybe we should have gone with a Cusack film)

Want some?

Want to find a bottle of this stuff?  Well, they don’t yet ship, but if you are in one of the lucky areas where their wines can be found… here’s the list

Perhaps there is a bit of the 90 cases of this wine that they made, left out there in the universe. You can hope!

Maybe you should drop by and see them?

Maloof Wines. Where ya Pj's at
Maloof Wines. Where ya Pj’s at

If you want to visit them…drop a note from the website where you can join the Maloof Tang Clan

Or drop them an email at [email protected]

You can find them at Day Camp

 21080 N Highway 99W, Dundee, OR 97115

Tastings are almost anytime by appointment only.

From the Maloof Site http://rossandbee.com/contact/

Want more?  Click through to all of our 12 Days of Wine posts!

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

Illahe Vineyards – Stepping back to a simpler time

Illahe Vineyards, Tasting Room

Well, I suppose “simpler” is all about perspective.  They have a wine here called 1899 that they do with all the conveniences that could be had at that time.  That means no tractors, no electricity, no motorized vehicles. 

Illahe means “earth” or “place” or “soil” in the Chinook local dialect.

Illahe Vineyard
Illahe Vineyard

We visited Illahe this past July and spent the morning with Lowell Ford, the owner and grower.  He and their Hospitality Manager Kathy took us through a tasting and a tour of the Winery and Vineyard. 

The proposed Mount Pisgah, Polk County AVA

The winery and vineyard are located in the middle part of the Willamette Valley, West of Salem near Dallas Oregon.  This area is part of the overarching Willamette Valley AVA and Illahe winemaker Brad Ford (Lowell’s son) has started the process of creating a Mount Pisgah, Polk County AVA. 

The AVA covers 5,850 acres, 15 miles west of Salem and home to 10 commercial vineyards, including Freedom Hill, and two bonded wineries: Amalie Roberts Estate and Illahe Vineyards. Mount Pisgah, named by settlers in the 1800s in honor of a hill back home in Missouri, has 531 acres of vines — mostly Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay — planted from 260 to 835 feet in elevation.

https://www.oregonwinepress.com/gaining-ground

The Vineyards at Illahe

Grape Varieties

Illahe Vineyard
Illahe Vineyard

While the Primary focus here is Pinot Noir, they have planted Pinot Gris, Grüner Veltliner, Tempranillo, Viognier and then small bits of Lagrein, Schioppettino and Teroldego.

Sustainability

The vineyard is LIVE-certified and they take pride in working by hand.  They are using native flowers as cover crops, which is good for the soil and makes for stunning vineyard shots.

The winery is built on the hill and is set up to be gravity flow. They also use solar power.

The site and soils

The site is south-facing with spectacular views from their patio in front of the winery.  Their elevation here ranges from 250-440 feet.  They get earlier budbreak and a bit of the Van Duzer Winds. On Mount Pisgah they get a little less of the extreme temps and winds than those vineyards in the proposed Van Duzer Corridor.

Illahe Vineyard
Illahe Vineyard

Soils here are Willakenzie sedimentary clay (Bellpine, Dupee, Wellsdale) with sections of volcanic Jory soil.

They use some Acacia barrels here, and the winery was designed for it’s roof to make you feel as if you are inside a barrel.

The 1899 Pinot Noir

Without electricity for their 1899, they revert to bicycle power to do pump overs.  Everything here is done by hand.  The Percheron’s plow the fields, the harvest is by hand, the bottling, labeling etc.  Then they have a carriage take the wine to the river and there is a two day canoe trip north and then they bicycle the wine to market.  Yep… maybe not “simpler” right.  But worth the effort.

Illahe Vineyard
Illahe Vineyard

To visit Illahe

You can look forward to a journey through the winery and into the cellar with Lowell coming up.  In the meantime if you want to visit them To schedule an appointment email Kathy: [email protected] or call 503-831-1248.

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

Montinore Estate – About the wines

Montinore Vineyards Entrance

Continuing our conversation with Rudy Marchesi at Montinore Estate

 After looking over the Willamette Valley AVA map and having Rudy give us some background on the soils and the impact of the Missoula floods we sat with him to talk about how these soils influence the wines at Montinore Estate.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is very expressive and Rudy told us that pinot grown in the windblown loess here tend to be brighter, with berry flavors rather than the cherry notes that are so often associated with pinot noir. The pinots here also are very spicy with baking spices.

They produce several different Pinot Noirs here.  Here is a sampling.  I can’t promise that I have not missed one.

  • “Red Cap” Pinot Noir:  This is a blend from all the vineyards giving you multiple areas and soil types blended into one bottle. 
  • Reserve Pinot Noir:  Again from multiple sites but all within the estate. These are the best blocks and lots. They ferment and age separately and then blend the best.
  • Parsons’ Ridge Pinot Noir:  This vineyard block sits on a part of the vineyard where the vines face two different directions.  The lots, as they are different, are fermented separately and then blended.
  • Keeler Estate Pinot Noir:  This is a 25 acres Biodynamic vineyard in Eola-Amity Hills that they source from.  This gives you another opportunity to taste and compare the terroir.
  • Windy Hill Pinot Noir: This comes from the Southern part of the Valley and is influenced by the winds of the Van Duzer Corridor.
  • Cataclysm Pinot Noir: Comes from their Block 1 which has mineral rich soils.  They pick the most expressive barrels from this block to make this wine.

Pinot Gris

 He finds the white wines to actually be more distinctive.  Pinot gris grown in the Missoula flood loess, is very complex.  Rather than apple and pear, they get citrus and herbal notes. In warmer years there will be tropical notes.  Always he finds pinot gris here to have lots of texture.

Riesling

The riesling he find distinctive, but without as much difference although he feels sure some might disagree.

Chardonnay

Chardonnay is new here.  They had quite a bit planted early on, but it was the clone brought up from California.  This clone was a late ripener and had tight clusters which were prone to rot.  It was a great clone when there was good weather in a vintage, but that was about 1out of every 4 years.

They have now planted the new Dijon clone, which has looser clusters and is an earlier ripening clone.  They are back in the Chardonnay business in a small way.  He is encouraged by the quality, but it’s too soon to know what they will get stylistically from the vineyards with these clones.  They will need a few more vintages to figuring this out.

Bubbles

They are currently producing a prosecco style bubbly, and have a Traditional Methode Champenoise Sparkling wine of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay which is yet to be released.

Other Varieties

In addition they are growing bits of Teroldego and Lagrein, Gerwürztraminer and Müller Thurgau.

Blends and specialty wines

You will find Rosé, Orange wine, fortified wine (Ruby), Ice wine (Frolic) and Verjus also on their wine line-up which is very diverse, having something for every palate.

Everything here is done on site, and they try to be as Estate as possible.  The 2016 Pinot got away from 100% Estate because they had too much demand and had to contract a couple of other growers.

Speaking with Rudy and walking the winery, you can see the pride they take in making the best possible wines here.

You can learn a bit about the estate with our posts.

https://www.crushedgrapechronicles.com/montinore-estate-a-recent-history/

https://www.crushedgrapechronicles.com/montinore-the-deeper-history/

And check back here as we will next talk to Rudy about Biodynamics before heading with him to the cellar for a tour and barrel tasting.

If you are in the Willamette Valley stop by and give the wines a taste for yourself.  You can find them a:

Montinore Estate
3663 SW Dilley Road
Forest Grove, Oregon 97116
503.359.5012

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

Ross & Bee – Maloof Wines

Ross & Bee Maloof

The brains and the brawn, the science and the passion…the perfect pairing for making wines.  Ross and Bee consider themselves to be a “true yin and yang team.”

Ross & Bee Maloof exude joy when you speak with them.  They are truly excited, bubbling to tell you about these wines that they are so passionate about.  And it’s contagious.  When we spoke with them at the Uncommon Wine Festival at Vista Hills Vineyard, they were multi-tasking, pouring glasses and keeping up multiple conversations at the same time.

Their story, while not easy, is kind of dreamy.  Bee is an aerospace materials engineer, rooted in science, while Ross comes from a hospitality background, running Food and Beverage programs on the east coast in Phili.  Ross had this urge to get into production and got into wine doing an internship with Brianna Day of Day Wines.  Brianna runs Day Camp, a wine cooperative and home to 11 small producers, one of which is now Maloof.

In 2015 they made a single barrel of wine, while living a bi-coastal life, just coming to Oregon for harvests.

Ross: In 2016 I had left my job in Philadelphia and I lived in a tent behind the winery from the middle of July through Thanksgiving and Bee came out for a really good portion of that too.  She took all her vacation

Bee: and I’d been saving it for years and years and years

Ross: Spent it all

Bee: In a tent”

So they spent the harvest in a tent behind the winery to fund their first vintage.  At this point, they decided to make a go of it.  They returned to Phili, packed up the stuff they didn’t sell, put the dogs in the car and did a 33-day drive across the country, with stops along the way to visit family.

This year they will be doing their 4th vintage, but they have only been full time residents since last May.

They focus on white wine, making 6 or 7 wines each year, with only one being a red wine and even that wine is typically 30% white fruit.  Their style is

“Bright, snappy, low alcohol, high acid white wines.”

As we got into tasting the first wine Bee gave us a disclaimer.

Bee: This first one is our possibly, I don’t want to say our most boring, because it’s very classic. (But) It’s going to get weirder going forward.

2017 Nemarniki Vineyard Riesling

Maloof 2017 Nemarniki Vineyard Riesling

Maloof 2017 Nemarniki Vineyard Riesling

Bee: This is our 2017 Riesling, it’s from a really cool vineyard at the top of the Chehalem Mountain Range, kinda just down the road, the Nemarniki vineyard and it is run by a female farmer, which I’m always a big proponent of.  She and her 3 legged mastiff dog, Babe, basically make the best fruit on Chehalem Mountain, it’s so good.  We fermented this super classically, low and slow over the winter, in large format neutral oak puncheons, so 500 liter puncheons and then we bottled in the spring.  And you’ll notice there’s a little sparkle to it, a little frizzante.”

A couple of extra notes:  Nemarniki is Dry Farmed, LIVE Certified, sits at 850 feet and the soil here is Loess.  The alcohol sits quietly at 10.5%, and it runs around $18 a bottle.

They suggest spicy pizza (they actually will suggest a type of pizza to pair with any wine. Pizza is kinda their thing), or Asian dishes with lots of umami.  They refer to this wine as “Stone-fruit moon juice”, which is an apt description.

2017 “Where ya PJs at?

Maloof 2017 Where ya Pjs at?

Maloof 2017 Where ya Pjs at?

“Ross: (This) wine is our fun little spring blend, this is what we think of as our answer to a rosé.  This is a blend, it’s 55% Pinot Gris and the Pinot Gris was fermented on the skins, kind of as you would traditionally ferment a red wine.  So we ferment that, on the skins in two different fashions; we do half of it with full skin contact and daily punch downs and then the other half we actually do carbonic masceration.  Then that’s pressed off and blended with Riesling. So it’s like 55% skin contact Pinot Gris and 45% Riesling.  And this wine is called “Where Ya PJs at?”

The Pinot Gris came from Johan Vineyard which will be in the new Van Duzer Corridor AVA when that is approved and the Riesling, like the Riesling above came from Nemarniki in the Chehalem Mountain AVA.  Soils at Johan are silty loam and Nemarniki is loess.

Which pie to enjoy this wine with?  They suggest a white pizza or “a bowl of popcorn over your favorite John Cusack movie”

This wine sits at 11.5 alcohol and will set you back a whopping $21 (do it if you can)

2017 Beckenridge Vineyard Gerwürztraminer

We moved onto the final wine they were pouring on this particular day.

2017 Beckenridge Vineyard Gerwürztraminer

2017 Beckenridge Vineyard Gerwürztraminer

“Ross:  So this last one is our Gewürztraminer. This is from Beckenridge vineyard, just outside of Eola-Amity Hills. The vines here are turning 40 this year.  They are own-rooted so really old vine Gewürtztraminer for Oregon.  It’s a really lovely little place.  We take this fruit and ferment it fully dry on the skins which ended up taking about 23 days.  So that’s 23 days skin contact before it was pressed off to neutral oak for the winter and bottled in the spring.”

This wine is from Beckenridge Vineyard.  The vines here are own-rooted and dry farmed and they are LIVE Certified.  The elevation is 650 feet and the soil is Jory.

On their site they describe this wine as “rose petals and black tea” and “A brooding copper color, with nourishing aromatics of flowers and cheering alpine herbs”.  The alcohol goes up another notch to 12.5%, which still sits on the low side in the universe as a whole, and runs $20.  They suggest pairing this wine with root veggies and alpine cheeses, oh, and Pizza…always with pizza.

As I noted the rich color of the Gerwürztraminer, Ross filled us in on their approach to this wine:

“Ross:  Yeah, so essentially if we kinda think about wine in the binary of white and red, white wine you are typically pressing the grape and separating the solid matter out of the equation and just fermenting the juice by itself and that’s why white wine is bright and acidic and easy to drink.  Whereas red wine, you crush the grapes and you leave all that solid matter, the skins, the seeds, the stems sometimes, you leave that in and even kind of reincorporate it.  I think of it as steeping tea. The skin of the berry is really where all the pigment is, that’s why even with table grapes, if you go to the grocery store and you buy red grapes, if you cut one open it doesn’t bleed red onto your counter it’s white on the inside, which is why Champagne is crystal clear and it’s made of Pinot Noir.  As you increase that steeping time that contact time with the solid matter, in the fermentation, you get more color pigmentation.  So if you take white grapes and do the same thing you would normally do for a red ferment, you end up with this copper hue.  But what you also end up with is a white wine that has more phenolic bitterness or drive complexity and tannins.  So things that you might more often associate with a red wine.  There are a number of wine cultures in the world that have been making white wine that way forever.  The Republic of Georgia, parts of Slovenia, north eastern Italy, make their white wines, the same way they make their red wines.  That’s just the tradition and how they make it.”

This wasn’t the first reference to Georgian wines we had heard today and finding these “Orange Wines” made the day pretty unique.

Other Maloof Wines

They were not pouring their Syrah on this particular day, but I asked about it.  It was two weeks from bottling at that time.  In 2015 they did a classic Syrah/Viognier blend.  This year though, it would be Syrah/Marsanne.  It was planned to be a Syrah/Marsanne/Roussanne but the Roussanne was lost to a frost.

In addition they have a sur lee aged Pinot Gris that they sold out of earlier in the year, but they will be bottling again next year.

How to find them?

Yeah, not online, at least not yet.  Watch for them to get that set up in the spring of 2019.  In the mean time they are distributed in Oregon, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Vermont.  Check out their distributor page here.  http://rossandbee.com/find-wine/

Find them online at http://rossandbee.com/

On Facebook https://www.facebook.com/maloofwines/

At Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/maloofwines/

You can also read our piece on the Uncommon Wine Festival, with our interview with Dave Pettersen the Winemaker and CEO of Vista Hills who founded the event, and check out other interviews we did at the festival with Ryan Pickens of Esther Glen Farm and Winery , Ariel Eberle of A Cheerful Note Cellars , Jim Fischer and Jenny Mosbacher of Fossil & Fawn, Alex Neely of Libertine Wines  and Deven Morganstern of Joyful Noise.  We look forward to bringing you interviews and discussions with all of the winemakers from this event, as well as details and visits with wineries in each of the Willamette Valley AVAs.  So check back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles  and don’t forget, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

And if you want to dive into details on the Willamette Valley, you can read our recent post Oregon’s Willamette Valley AVAs – a Primer

 

Esther Glen Farm and Winery with Ryan Pickens

Vista Hills Uncommon Wine Festival Ryan Pickens

We met Ryan Pickens of Esther Glen Farm and Winery at the Uncommon Wine Festival at Vista Hills Vineyard, and had a chance to taste his wines.  The Uncommon Wine Festival gave us an “uncommon” occasion to meet and speak with several newer winemakers, who have smaller labels.  It was an opportunity to taste many interesting wines and hear the stories first hand of how they were conceived and made.  This was the 9th Annual event, but it was Ryan’s first time at the festival.

A little bit on Esther Glen

The name comes from Esther and Glen who came to the Dundee Hills in the 1960’s to start their holistic farm and be self-sustaining.  In 1970 Craig Rathkey came to Esther Glen. He was farming with a 1950 Vintage Formal Cub tractor and a 1948 John Deer “M” tractor.  He restores old tractors, as well as antique clocks.  In 2015 Ryan Pickens met Craig Rathkey and now Ryan makes wine with the sustainably farmed grapes grown on the vineyard.  The Estate is 15 acres located on the Willamette Valley Floor across the street from Sokol Blosser.

Ryan Pickens, the winemaker

Esther Glenn Winemaker, Ryan Pickens

Esther Glenn Winemaker, Ryan Pickens

Ryan put his Marketing degree to use working for the Benzinger Family in Sonoma, CA selling wine.  It was there that he learned about sustainable and biodynamic farming.  Talking with the Benzingers, he got the itch to work on the other side of wine, in production. He started with a harvest internship and was hooked.

“That was in 2012 and I haven’t looked back since.  I went to New Zealand, Germany, Australia, during that time also, trying to find which wine I wanted to make for the rest of my life, and Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are those three and Oregon is that place, that I’ve really found my heart, so I moved here in 2015.”

He does still work full time making wine for somebody else, so this is a side project.

“Yeah so this is just so fun, and I feel so blessed to be able to do this. I never thought that I would actually be able to start my own label.”

We tasted the two wines that Ryan was pouring, the 2017 Pinot Gris and the 2016 Pinot Noir.  Both are own rooted.

Esther Glen_Wine Bottles

Esther Glen_Wine Bottles

2017 Esther Glen Pinot Gris

This is the 2nd vintage of Pinot Gris for them, they are just getting started.  The 2016 is sold out, so not so bad for their first vintage.

The nose is bright with meyer lemon and the then a little softer on the palate. This wine retails for $18.00

2016 Esther Glen Pinot Noir

This is the first vintage of Pinot Noir for them.  It is a mix of Pommard, 777, 115 and 667.  It is aged in 20% new oak.

 “(I was).. Trying to capture, so when I moved here this forest floor, this mushroom characteristic, that everyone was talking about, and happy to see that this is starting to blossom out like that .”

There was definitely forest floor on this wine as well as leather and cola on the palate.  This wine retails for $28.00

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On Sustainability and holistic farming

Coming from Benzinger where they farm biodynamically and then at Esther Glen where that was the original idea of Esther and Glen, the grapes here are farmed sustainably.  Certification will come eventually, but it is a process and a cost and the vineyard and winery are young.  Regardless the idea of holistic farming is important to Ryan.

“Yeah, so you want to give back to the land you know, who knows if we are going to be there for 10 or 20 years, but we want to make sure that that land is ready for the next person coming around.  So really you’re just taking care of it for the next generation.

Esther Glen does tastings by appointment only and you can reach them by phone at (503)583-0970 or email them at [email protected]

You can also find them online at EstherGlen.com

And on social media on Facebook  and Instagram

You can also read our piece on the Uncommon Wine Festival, with our interview with Dave Pettersen the Winemaker and CEO of Vista Hills who founded the event. We look forward to bringing you interviews and discussions with all of the winemakers from this event, as well as details and visits with wineries in each of the Willamette Valley AVAs.  So check back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles  and don’t forget, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

And if you want to dive into details on the Willamette Valley, you can read our recent post Oregon’s Willamette Valley AVAs – a Primer

A Palette of Pinots – The Hues of Alsace

Famous wine route in the Vosges mountains Alsace France

What comes to mind with you think of “Pinot”? Do you think of a ruby-red pinot noir from Burgundy or a rich deep pinot from Sonoma? Is it the pale straw of a pinot grigio from Italy? Whatever color variation of this grape you thought of, you probably were not thinking of Alsace when you thought of it. I’m here to tell you why you should, because #AlsaceRocks.

The Shades of Pinot

First lets talk about pinot. We begin with pinot noir, a grape with a thin skin that can be notoriously fickle. It has tight bunches (that are shaped like pine cones, hence the name) that are prone to rot.  It wants lots of sun, but doesn’t want to be too hot. Luckily, the Cistercian monks in Burgundy found their penance in the hard work of coddling this grape to it’s greatness.

From here we get the mutations: pinot blanc and pinot gris. Simply enough, pinot blanc is a white grape mutation and pinot gris is a “grey” grape. While not truly grey, pinot gris sits in the in between hue ranging from bluish gray to pinkish brown. Of course pinot gris is the French term for this grape, in Italy they call it pinot grigio.

Beyond this we get Crémant d’Alsace, a sparkling wine that can be made from any of the pinots, (and upon occasion some “not pinots” like chardonnay) but all Crémant d’Alsace Rosé must be made from pinot noir, in the method traditionelle.

Map of the Wine Region of Alsace France

Map of the Wine Region of Alsace France

Alsace

This region is perfect for these wines as they thrive in the dry climate created by the Vosges Mountains. Alsace is a thin strip on the North eastern edge of France. This area has gone back and forth between Germany and France for centuries and the style of houses and names of towns attest to that fact.  It’s a fairytale land with charming villages with half-timbered buildings, dotted with flower boxes. You can explore these delightful towns on the oldest wine route in France, that travels 106 miles from Marlenheim to Thann, stopping to taste the wines and the food as you explore this beautiful region.

The charming city of Eguisheim in Alsace France

The charming city of Eguisheim in Alsace France

Then there is the soil.  We did say #AlsaceRocks right?  This area at the foot of the Vosges Mountains is a patchwork of soils.  You find granite, and sandstone, limestone, schist and volcanic soils. Once, fifty million years ago, the Black Forest and the Vosges were a single mountain range, pushed up by the plates.  When this collapsed it formed the Rhine River.  All that shifting around will geologically mix up some soil, and hence you get all these varied pockets of soil that add fascinating diversity to the vineyards.

The Wines & Pairings

Pinots from Alsace; Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Crémant d'Alsace

A range of pinots from Alsace from Teuwen Communications (and Loki)

Now lets dive into the hues of pinots. @DrinkAlsace was kind enough to provide us a variety of pinots to taste through. (All opinions are my own) We begin with a 2017 Pinot Blanc from Emile Beyer, followed by a 2012 Pinot Gris from Dopff & Irion, on to a 2015 Leon Beyer Pinot Noir and finishing with a Crémant d’Alscace Rosé from Domaine Zinck. All but one of these wines come from the village of Eguisheim. The Pinot Gris is the exception coming from Riquewirh.

Emile Beyer Pinot Blanc Traditional 2017

Emile Beyer is a 43 acre family estate just outside of Colmar in the village of Eguisheim. This wine comes from younger vineyards on the estate.  The soil here is clay, sandstone & chalky marl, and the grapes are mostly Pinot Blanc with a little Auxerrois. Alcohol sits at about 13%. $15

Cheeses

I searched for cheeses to pair with this wine and went off to look for a Saint-Nectaire and a Chaource.

Chaource is a named for the village of Chaource in France. It is a very soft ripened cow’s milk cheese. This cheese is soft and buttery. My Murray’s guy found me a domestic equivalent that did not disappoint. Murray’s Delice is a lovely soft ripened cheese that really and truly melted in your mouth. It went nicely with the wine.

Delice from Murray's

Delice from Murray’s Cheese shop, similar to a Chaource

Saint-Nectaire is a Tomme style cheese again from cow’s milk. It is a semi soft washed rind cheese. It specifically comes from the Auvergne region of France and is made from the mild of cows that feed in rich volcanic pastures. It matures 6-8 weeks on rye straw mats, which causes a pungent smell.

My Murray’s guy pointed me toward a Springbrook Vermont Artisan Cheese which was similar to an Alpine raclette. This gave us a different texture to compare with the Delice. Michael found it too pungent, but I enjoyed it.

 

Springbrook Vermont Artisan Cheese

Springbrook Vermont Artisan Cheese similar to a Saint-Nectaire cheese from France

Appetizer

I had envied a fellow blogger his grilled peaches the other day, and planned on making some myself. I got running behind on dinner and instead sliced my peach and plopped a little goat cheese on it, a leaf of basil and wrapped it in prosciutto. This was definitely the right decision, both time wise and pairing wise. The fresh peach was still a little firm and with the goat cheese was really nice with the wine, picking up on those unripe stone fruit notes. It was also cool and easy to eat. I suggest these bites for all summer!.

Peach slices with goat cheese wrapped with basil and proscuitto

Peach slices with goat cheese wrapped with basil and prosciutto

Frittata

I knew the minute I saw the suggestion of an egg dish with this wine, that I would go that direction. I looked through quiche recipes and then settled on the simplicity of a Frittata. This wine loves spring vegetables so a spring green salad would go along side. I quick pickled some small golden beets and radishes in honey and white wine vinegar to add to the top with some pine nuts.

The frittata I filled with broccoli, peas and green beans that I quickly blanched, then I sautéed golden beets, radishes and zucchini and let them develop a little crunch. I added a cup of ricotta to add a creamy cheese to the mix that would not be too heavy. Red onions were sautéed before dropping in the egg mixture. And it cooked to perfection in my rod iron skillet.

Sprint salad with pickled beets and radishes and a spring vegetable frittata with a Pinot Blanc

Spring salad with pickled beets and radishes and a spring vegetable frittata with a Pinot Blanc

Dopff & Irion Cuvée René Dopff Pinot Gris 2012

René Dopff took over Dopff & Irion in 1945 as he joined forces with the Widow Madame Irion, taking over the Château de Riquewirh. The Château was built in 1549 by the Princes of Württemberg who ruled this area for 5 centuries.

The village of Riquewihr in Alsace France

The Village of Riquewirh in Alsace. Home of Dopff and Irion

This wine is 100% Pinot Gris with soil in marl, limestone, gypsum, clay and sandstone. This cuveé comes from 200 selected vine-growers. It is stored on lees for 4 weeks before maturing in tank for four months. Like the Pinot Blanc it sits at 13% alcohol. $21.

Exotic and Strange Pairings

Dopff & Irion suggestioned “Pair with oriental and exotic cuisine like prawns with Thai Sauce, chicken curry or cottage cheese with pepper.  “Cottage cheese with pepper? It seemed strange to me, but I was definitely going to try this! Other suggestions included mushrooms and cream sauces, triple crème cheeses, green beans, and tikka masala.

So our pairings included a triple crème cheese with mushrooms, almonds, hazelnuts, apricots, apricot compote, cottage cheese with pepper, green beans, mushroom risotto, tikka masala, chicken in a thai curry sauce and fettuccine with chicken and a crème sauce. It gave a wide variety of styles of food to pair with.

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This wine was full and warm on the palate with baked apples and warm apricots. It was lush with a viognier like quality. Golden in color it opened into white flowers and the stones of stone fruit.

It spiked the flavor in the hazelnuts, blended nicely with the cottage cheese and pepper and brightened the spice in the Tikka Masala without adding heat.

With the mushrooms it leaned into the depth of forest floor. My favorite bite was the triple crème with mushrooms with the apricot compote. This was glorious in my mouth.

This wine was exceptional. So much depth! While I enjoyed all the wines, this was my favorite.

Route-des-vinsd'Alsace

Route-des-vinsd’Alsace

House of Leon Beyer 2015 Pinot Noir

This wine is one of the oldest Alsatian family owned estates. Founded in 1580 this winery is now run by Marc Beyer and his son, who along with a team of 21 others farm 173 acres.

The soils are limestone and clay with grapes from vines that are 25 to 30 years old. This wine was fermented in glass-lined concrete tanks. It sits at 13%. $28.

This wine is light with warm berries and bright exotic spice. The nose reminded me of a savory strawberry tart with warm strawberries and rosemary and thyme.

I found this wine to be much more interesting when paired with food, than on it’s own.

Domaine Zinck Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé NV

Paul Zinck created the winery in 1964, it is now run by his son Philippe and Philippe’s wife Pascale.

This winery is also located in Eguisheim, with vineyards with soils of silk, chalk with clay-silt and volcanic ash.

This Non Vintage crémant is 100% Pinot Noir and sits at 12.5% alcohol. $25

The color on this wine is rich and warm as it also is on the palate.

Pairings for Both

Both of these wines we paired with a cheese and meat platter. We pulled up a variety of cheeses including a local cheddar from Utah coated in Earl Grey as well as prosciutto and sopresso, pistachios, pine nuts, sliced apples, apricots and salt and pepper popcorn.

Crémant d'Alsace & Pinot Noir from Alsace and a cheese platter

Crémant d’Alsace from Domaine Zinck and a Leon Beyer Pinot Noir paired with cheese, fruit, charcuterie and salt and pepper popcorn.

These two wines were lovely to enjoy on an afternoon with the pinot noir going nicely with the Earl Grey cheddar, the sopresso and the salt and pepper popcorn most especially. The crémant went well with everything and had a great depth of flavor.

All of these wines were exceptional values and provided flavors that were not quite “typical” for the varieties.

And remember I mentioned the hues?  The colors, the aromas, the flavors on the palate, they all brought a range of depth.  From the faintest color of straw in the Pinot Blanc from Emile Beyer, to the rich gold of the Pinot Gris from Dopff & Irion, on to the warm rich golden salmon tones of the Crémant d’Alsace from Zinck and into the vivid rich red of the Pinot Noir from Leon Beyer,  the range of expression in these wines was beautiful.  It was a trip through the seasons; spring with Pinot Blanc and the brightness that went so well with the spring vegetables in the frittata; summer with the warmer exotic flavors pairing with the vivid Pinot Gris, that brought in a little of humid lazy summer days with it’s brooding side; fall with the rich warm tones of the Crémant d’Alsace, which did really look like fall in the glass; and then the richer warmer red of the Pinot Noir for Winter, that still keeps things a little light, I picture snow sparkling in moonlight amidst the festive streets of Eguisheim.

These wines brought something a little extra. Perhaps it is the soils? I mean it is true that #AlsaceRocks

If you enjoyed this, and want to dig a little deeper into Alsace, please join our chat on Twitter We love visitors and happily chat and answer questions. Simply tune in to the #winophiles hashtag on Twitter this Saturday, June 16 at 10am CDT. You can also check out the #AlsaceRocks hashtag for more Alsace fun during and after the chat.

Here’s a list of great Alsace wine suggestions from our Winophiles

You can check out another piece we did “Dipping my toe in Crémant d’Alsace“.  And of course to keep up with all of our posts and wine adventures, you can find us here at Crushed Grape Chronicles . You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram